NMT Mourns Loss of Influential Sen. Pete Domenici

New Mexico Tech Mourns Loss of Influential Senator Pete Domenici


SOCORRO, N.M. – New Mexico Tech president Dr. Stephen Wells issued a statement honoring the impact and influence that former Senator Pete Domenici had in shaping the university during his 36 years in the Senate. Domenici passed away September 13, at the age of 85.


Dennis Hunter (right) of EMRTC talks to Senator Pete Domenici (center), with former President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez (left).



Senator Pete Domenici (left) and former President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez.



“Today we mourn the loss of New Mexico’s longest serving United States Senator, Pete Domenici,” Wells said. “He served our state admirably in the U.S. Senate from 1973 to 2009. Just as he was a steward of New Mexico, Senator Domenici was equally a champion of New Mexico Tech and its initiatives. He will be forever remembered for his contributions to the growth and success of our institution and greatly missed.”

During his tenure, Domenici helped secure many millions of funding for research projects at New Mexico Tech, including Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, Magdalena Ridge Observatory, the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center, and the Very Large Array.

Former Tech president Dr. Daniel H. Lopez said, “Clearly, Senator Domenici was a champion on behalf of New Mexico Tech. He almost single-handedly helped us improve an array of our research infrastructure. He was a real statesman who made Washington D.C. work smoothly. We will all miss him and I wish him Godspeed as he goes into the beyond.”

In his honor, New Mexico Tech officially dedicated the NRAO office building on campus as the “Domenici Science Operations Center” in May 2008.

Domenici visited the campus for the dedication ceremony. At that event, he praised New Mexico Tech for its cutting-edge research, development and education initiatives, which are contributing to national security as well as scientific competitiveness.

Domenici joined officials from New Mexico Tech, the University of Cambridge and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) to dedicate the observatory’s research building as the “Pete V. Domenici Science Operations Center.” Prior to the event, Domenici toured the nearby Magdalena Ridge Observatory, another project championed by the Senator.

Domenici credited the school’s success to a focus on its core goals of science, engineering and research. 

“Over the years, the mission of New Mexico Tech has expanded, making it an outstanding research university that specializes in science, engineering and research.  I have always appreciated that throughout this period of growth, New Mexico Tech has remained true to these same goals,” Domenici said.

Then-President Dr. Daniel H. López said Sen. Domenici has always been a supporter of science and research in Socorro and throughout the state.

“He’s been a statesman for New Mexico, the nation – and without exaggeration – for the world,” López said. “Anyone with that track record deserves lasting recognition”

Domenici has consistently lent support to New Mexico Tech’s cutting-edge research projects. During the Reagan Administration, Domenici sponsored the legislation that allowed the university to use the national forest land to build Langmuir Laboratory, a world-class lightning research lab.

López said the U.S. Department of the Interior would not let the university conduct research on forest land.  A high level bureaucrat told Laurence Lattman, then the president of Tech, that it “would take an act of Congress” for Tech to have unlimited access to the land.

Domenici sponsored the legislation – signed by Reagan – that gave Tech access to the land.

Over the years, Domenici's support has helped Tech launch the homeland security training program in Playas, the EarthScope research, and other anti-terrorism training programs.

"All these projects benefit New Mexico Tech," López said. "But these programs also benefit the nation. Senator Domenici has always been careful to make sure that federal money went to programs that benefit the entire nation."

Vice President of Research Dr. Van Romero said Sen. Domenici has always been receptive to new ideas and willing to take risks.

“Over the years, Sen. Domenici has always had time to listen to our needs and goals," Romero said. "He has served as a champion of New Mexico Tech's causes and we owe him a debt of gratitude for all his efforts over the decades."

Sen. Domenici helped make New Mexico Tech's Magdalena Ridge Observatory one of the world's most technologically-advanced optical observatories.

New Mexico Tech has received more than $53 million from the U.S. Congress for construction and implementation of the program. 

“If it weren’t for Sen. Domenici’s ability to secure major funding, we would not have had this opportunity to join this extraordinary partnership with Cambridge,” López said. “Sen. Domenici was the spearhead and the lightning rod to help form this partnership.”        

– NMT –